I'm honored to have my newest friend in ministry, Julie Sibert guest blogging today.I know you will be blessed with her encouraging words as we continue this month's focus on hope.
I spoke recently at a conference where we addressed the “seasons of marriage.” Fortunately, I was involved in the planning of the conference, so I could snag “spring” as the season I would cover.
Who doesn't love the spring times in marriage?
Listening to the other speakers, though, I was most impacted by a married couple that shared about the “winter” seasons of marriage – those times that are plagued by miscommunication, difficulty, devastation and discouragement.
As anyone who has been married knows, it really isn’t a matter of if winter comes; it’s usually only a matter of when. All marriages oscillate through ups and downs, with some “seasons” lasting longer than others.
And even if you are not married, you are wise enough to recognize that winter is not reserved for married folk. All of us experience desolate times, when finding a nugget of hope feels about as easy as finding a lost earring that you didn’t even know was lost until weeks after it disappeared.
What’s a woman to do when discouraged? Here are three suggestions:
1. Don’t isolate from God.
Sounds easy enough, right, when all you really want to do is pull the covers over your head? But isolation and discouragement do not make for good bedfellows.
Get real with God about your sheer frustration and discouragement. Don’t try to guard your heart from Him (as if that would be possible anyway), but rather share with Him everything you are feeling, even the really ugly stuff.
As we’ve likely heard, God is indeed a big God. He longs for us to cast our cares upon Him. He is a steady place to lean when we feel hopeless, even if “leaning” just looks like a lot of tears, runny noses and brokenness.
2. Cling to safe confidantes.
The key word here is “safe.” I believe we each need 2-3 other people in our life who will receive us right where we are, pray with us and speak from a place that is rooted in godly counsel.
And this next point is crucial – women need women confidantes and men need men confidantes. It is dangerous ground when a distraught discouraged woman seeks refuge in a male friend who is not her husband.
The boundary lines can – and likely will – become hazy. When we are discouraged, we are blind to some of our weaknesses and can easily find ourselves entertaining ideas or misconstruing circumstances. It’s just a dangerous road, so you might as well avoid it all together.
Gals, stick with your safe women friends.
3. Clear your schedule.
When some people are discouraged, they do the exact opposite of isolate – they instead consume themselves with busyness. Sadly, we have even heard this as advice – “you just need to keep yourself busy.” (I heard it from well-meaning people when I was going through the loss of my first marriage).
I think there is a tipping point, though, where busyness becomes a misguided attempt to mask authentic pain.
When I am most discouraged, I need the Lord, my close confidantes and space. An overflowing calendar tends to just compound exhaustion and discouragement.
A more sensible approach is to cut back where you can cut back and extend yourself grace in this, so that you have room to reflect and get your bearings.
Though the winter times come in all of our lives, the truth is that spring is on the horizon. We have to believe that, though, and walk or crawl in that direction. The Lord and your friends will help – if you let them.
Julie Sibert writes and speaks about sexual intimacy in marriage. You can follow her blog at www.IntimacyInMarriage.com and on Twitter @Intimacy4Life. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska, with her husband, their two boys and one rambunctious German Shorthair Pointer puppy who refuses to stay in the fence.
Copyright © 2012 Julie Sibert